By Charlie Mbonteh*
Paul Biya scored some positive points on 31st December 2016. Firstly, he was engaging with the camera which is indicative of being aware of the audience &topics he was addressing. Secondly, he maintained a cool tone which is a sign of level-headedness enough for a leader who must always calm turbulent waters. My third take and very importantly, he was very short on specifics with plenty of procrastination. The concerns of the Teachers and Common Law Lawyers were not given concrete way forward. To say that a commission will be put in place after genuine concerns have been tabled is in fact very tragic for a leader who has been in office for half a century!!He kept repeating what we all know: “Cameroon is ONE and INDIVISIBLE…a true African experiment and the Constitution must be respected”.
Most Cameroonians are law abiding and want their country to remain as one but demand constitutionally defined ways of conducting State affairs that will respect their diversities. His speech revealed his insensitivity about how he has been managing and allocating resources in Cameroon. All the projects mentioned as realized within the electricity sector are in the Center-South of the country. The increased employment opportunities created in the country were mostly (75%) given to children of the Centre- South regions. He insisted that people have a right to express their opinions through peaceful demonstrations. Did he withdraw the required permission from administrators who are under instructions to turn down requests from people to hold peaceful public manifestations? The president had enough time between the strike actions and his speech to elaborate specific directives on the legitimate, pertinent and well documented concerns of Teachers and Lawyers (concerns shared by all of us); on bilingualism in relation to official texts at all levels (international, national & local);on the constraints of “no go subjects” on journalists (public & private) and on the abusive use of the police to institutionalize the “Culture of Silence” through intimidation and harassment.
Paul Biya could have mentioned persons he must punish on the happenings in Bamenda, Buea and the train disaster; he could have boldly reacted to the legitimate aspirations of Cameroonians for inclusive governance by announcing a major milestone within the context of Decentralization such as the election of Governors during the 2018 elections. Paul Biya is a master of procrastination who will stop at nothing to hang on power until death do him part while shifting the responsibility of resolving burning-crucial national issues to the Next President. Mr. Biya took no action on the 2014 Brazil World Cup fiasco& the 2016 Train disaster after which commissions were created and their reports with recommendations were shelved. Why should we expect or dream that he would take action this time around?
*Charlie Mbonteh is Team Leader of Municipal Development Counseling, MUDEC Group, Buea